The Hidden Life of Trees

A poem about trees


In September 2017 I supported Kath Burlinson, Paul Oertel and Nancy Spanier on a Discipline of Freedom workshop in France with members of the Authentic Artist Collective. I wrote this poem while I was there, in a beautiful studio in the heart of the wooded Dordogne region. My lovely non-fiction book group back in Edinburgh met during that week and the book of the month was The Hidden Life of Trees  by Peter Wolhleben; this is the poem about trees I had promised to send in my absence. The performance artist mentioned in the piece is the beautiful Lucia Lutonska. I am touched that when Lucia chose to share her stories and drawings at the recent 10th anniversary party of the Authentic Artist Collective in London, this poem was read by the fabulous spoken word artist Rachel Amey.


The Tree


The only metaphor you’ll ever need

In all your jumper cable days.*


In this room, on a French chestnut floor

Stands a woman who lets fall leaves,


Unique pictures which all tell the same

Story. Some fall, some she holds close


To her heart, shows us how this one tells

Of a magical plant which holds the seeds


Of every story, dust drifting across the

Land in search of story hearers, and the


Songs that float on the water since time

Immemorial, weathering everything.


‘Have I ever told you, my dear, how all

The worlds are born?’ Have you ever


Listened to the secrets sung in the

Branches or heard under your hand


The pull of invisible currents of rising sap

Or breathed in the news that the trunk


Transmits through each twig or bowed

Down after craning your neck towards


The crown of the tree to gaze below ground

At the cathedral of roots that reflect wood’s


Majesty in generous, foundational realms?

Have you stood the soles of your feet on the


Chestnut floor and taken in the vibrating

Pulse of others around you who in your


Forest surround you, your mystery connecting

To theirs, their root-riven history as much


Magnificently yours? Or tricked yourself into

Going down to the woods unsure of the big


Surprise of beech nut bounty or fungi fun or wild

Boar butt scratching or sapling school-yard


Hopscotch or a squirrel, owl or wood pigeon

Hoedown, a finger-painted butterfly ball of tree-


Speakers, leaf squeakers and long-pronged bug-

Chompers, mulching much into the recipe of light,


Dark till home-time dilemmas, bed time, let-go

tumble time, crumble down turn back to dust time?





* Mary Burmeister, Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner, would say ‘this is the only hold you’ll ever need in all your jumper cable days’ referring to the energetic capabilities of human touch. I’d never heard this phrase till today and have never experienced this kind of body work but like the idea that one thing/action/symbol/verse/thing can contain everything if you let it.


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